Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree at These National Forests


| LAST UPDATE 12/15/2021

By Hayden Katz
cut down christmas tree
CHRISTOF STACHE Stringer via Getty Images

Putting up a Christmas tree has been a tradition in America since the 1850s. And ever since, the number of trees sold has increased each year. According to forest researchers, nearly 26.2 million people bought the holiday decoration in 2019. Now, many national forests have taken initiative to reduce this number while also helping the environment. Here's how you, too, can be a part of this.

Those in charge of handling the upkeep of forests have claimed that they are "overstocked" with greenery. A robust forest should look very open and have a lot fewer trees than there really are. This is why many national forests across the country have started tree-cutting down programs. There, families can come, enjoy time with their loved ones, and pick a personal tree they can take home for the holidays. "It just so happens these smaller-diameter trees are perfect for Christmas trees," said a Forest Service employee at the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Lisa Herron.

home christmas tree decoration
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One of the first to create these programs was San Isabel National Forest in Colorado in 1956. More and more national forests have joined in since, and today there is about 80 total. It's a win-win situation. Since hundreds of individuals are already doing this on their own, why not make sure the cutting is being done in areas that need the help? By removing all the smaller trees, we can reduce the number of forest fires that occur. Seems a bit strange, right? Aren't we supposed to be helping the Earth by planting more trees rather than removing them? Well, actually, having an abundance of evergreen can allow fires to spread rapidly and create more harm.

The event doesn't just help the plant, it also creates a special bond between people and their local forests. "Many times, we see the value of harvesting the tree is not just to the environment, but quality time spent with each other—an opportunity for social cohesiveness that's based on this experience in public lands, and that's equally important as getting the Christmas tree," explained a researcher at Arizona State University, Megha Budruk.

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forest national tree christmas
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"Bringing something living into your home, it's really symbolic. Even if it's going to go away, life will carry on—that's what evergreens tell us. There's solace in having them in here," said Susie Kocher, a Lake Tahoe Basin local who has been cutting down her own tree for 28 years.

Click here to get a permit so you, too, can be a part of this adventure.